Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Dirty Wars": Jeremy Scahill chases down the dark side of undercover US war tactics

I have to tip an imaginary hat to journalists who brave combat zones.  I’m familiar with Sebastian Junger, but now attention focuses on Brooklyn NY native Jeremy Scahill, who narrates, in "Dirty Wars", his investigation of the US Joint Chiefs Covert Operations (JSOC), which ferret out terrorists but often commit a lot of collateral damage along the way, the kind reported already in Wikileaks (which gets mentioned in the picture). 
Scahill’s journey takes him from Afghanistan (now “Obama’s War”) to Yemen and Somalia.  The most tragic event is the targeting and assassination of a terrorist’s 16 year old son by the US, because of what he might “become”.  This sounds like our own version of an “eye for an eye” that surfaced in the Boston Marathon bombings, in a particularly gruesome and personally offensive way. 

Scahill develops personal contacts in these countries, with impressive people skills, and gives us “on the ground” looks of life in several of these countries, particularly Yemen.  The characterizations of apparently American undercover operatives as being muscular and tattooed is certainly striking.  Sometimes he is shown back home in his apartment in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood that looks familiar to me.

The film is directed by Rick Rowley and written with David Riker.  The movie is based in part on Scahill’s book “Blackwater”.

The Joint Chiefs special group was formed in 1980, according to the film, after President Carter’s failed rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran.

I believe that there was a predecessor to the group, however.  In 1968, after completing Basic Training at Fort Jackson, I spent a summer at the Pentagon in “force development” and was mysteriously transferred to Fort Eustis at the end of the summer.  But before the transfer, I heard about a special group in OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense).  I came back for a visit about a year later (mid 1969) and people were very squeamish that I even knew about it.

The official site is this  The film is distributed by Sundance Selects and IFC, and I saw it in a later afternoon show at Landmark E-Street.

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